Thursday, 8 January 2015

Samsen Villa - Restaurant by the Ping River

Happy New Year to all my dear readers! Hope this year will be filled with happiness and of course, delicious food!

First meal out of 2015? It was a New Year Day dinner with family. We wanted to try Samsen Villa, a restaurant by the Ping River that has been around for a long time.

The ambience is simply lovely. Arriving at dusk on a cool "winter's" evening, we got a table by the river side. Samsen Villa was quickly filling up with local diners as well as tourists. There's a large outdoor alfresco dining section, as well as indoor air-conditioned room.

The menu is extensive with a lot of Thai and Western dishes.

The waiter recommended the Royal Thai Style Pork Satay, which I thought was excellent. What is the difference between the "royal" satay and "regular" satay? According to the menu, the satay is made using an "ancient royal recipe" from 1978 (which I suppose isn't really that old!). In any case, the satay was well marinated and fragrant with lemongrass and coconut. The flavour was lovely too - rich and rounded. 120 bath (regular size - 7 satays).

Having ordered a "royal" dish, we went on to order another recommended dish - the Royal Thai Crispy Fried Rice Noodle with Signature Sauce - in Thai - Mee Grob. Mee Grob is usually served as a snack or appetiser, and has a sweet, sour and crunchy flavour with a hint of citrus, and is topped with garlic and bean sprouts . Samsen Villa's Royal Mee Grob was pleasant, but a little disappointing  (after the excellent Royal Satays) as I found the noodles a bit too dry. I like my mee grobs slightly sticky and a bit gooey from the sauce. 120 baht.

A Thai meal isn't complete with out a spicy salad, or "yum". This time we ordered "Yum Tuo Pu", or in English - Spicy Salad of Angle Beans with Pork and Prawns. "Yum Tuo Pu" is a lovely, light and refreshing salad made from angle beans (also called wing beans), fried onion and garlic, roasted chilli paste, coconut milk, palm sugar, lime and fish sauce. 140 baht.

The Steamed Whole Sneakhead Fish with Sauce was quite good. The sneakhead is steamed with various herbs and vegetables, and served in a hot "plate" with soup. The fish was nice and fresh. I thought the soup was a bit on the sweet side though. 280 baht.

.. And by the way, for your information, what Samsen Villa is famous for is actually their "jelly" beer. Ice cold beer served in frozen mugs, which I also enjoyed.

The Verdict

I really enjoyed the food and ambience at Samsen Villa. I thought most of the dishes tried that evening were quite good, and also quite good value considering the location and quality. The service was fine.

I didn't try the Western dishes. They do have steaks, ribs and lamb.

I'd love to come back to try other Thai dishes though. Somehow, I don't really feel like eating Western dishes here - may be because the Thai menu has such a variety and so many other dishes that I'd like to try, and that there are many excellent Western restaurants in Chiang Mai.

Interestingly, there are quite a lot of negative reviews about Samsen Villa, especially on Trip Advisor. Fortunately I had a pretty good experience. If you've been there, please let us know what you think!

Samsen Villa
201 Rimping Condominium
Charoen-raj Rd
T. Watgate, A. Muang
Chiang Mai
Tel: 053 306 588
Opens: 11am-11pm

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Monday, 15 December 2014

Baan Mon Muan

We're so lucky in Chiang Mai. Going to the mountains and back to nature is just about 30-40min away from the city. Mae Rim is one of those places perfect for a day trip.

Being on one of the main tourist routes in Chiang Mai, there are lots of attractions to visit.... And if you want to avoid tourist attractions like a plague, let me tell you that there are also lots of lovely eateries and cafes that the average tour bus to the elephant camp and orchid farm may not take you.

So it was a sunny "winter's" day in Chiang Mai with lovely clear blue sky. What else is there to do but head for Mae Rim. I started to unwind as soon as I drove up the mountain road, up past the resorts, past the elephant camp and took the turn to Mon Cham and Baan Mon Muan, driving further and further up the steep windy road.

Reaching perhaps about 2/3rd of the way to the peak, there's a Muay Thai camp on the left, and on the right, a road to the Royal Project and Baan Mon Muan, a small mountain top resort with a restaurant with breathtaking view!

The food is is lovely too. The menu is quite extensive, offering simple home style dishes.

The restaurant opens at 7:30am, serving a buffet breakfast (400 baht per person).

Speaking to the waitress, vegetable dishes are highly recommended as salad veggies are grown on the premises, other veggies are obtained from the nearby Royal Project or local farmers, so they are super fresh! The restaurant also try to use as much organic vegetables as possible.

Not feeling like a salad, we went for the Stir-fried Three Kinds of Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce (shiitake, eringii and black jelly).  I must say it was lovely. The mushrooms were very fresh and crunchy. The serving was quite large too. 150 baht

Now for some meat - Fried Pork with Garlic and Pepper. Very tasty with plenty of fried garlic to add to the fragrance and the crunch; perfectly cooked pork - tender yet still with the right amount of chewiness, and well seasoned with oyster sauce and lots of pepper! 150 baht

And now for Tom Kha Gai, which is one of my favourite Thai soups. It's a bit like tom yum soup with coconut milk. The flavour here sour and spicy, with a bit of creaminess from the coconut milk. Baan Mon Muan's tom kha gai is refreshing, tangy and spicy, and also interestingly comes with a bit of a crunch from the broccoli. 150 baht.

The three dishes were more than enough for two extremely hungry girls! It was a busy Sunday of a long weekend, so the restaurant was packed. We had to wait quite a while for our meal. It was worth it though, and I'll definitely go back when I get a chance, perhaps with a few more people so I can try a few other dishes offered here. Any takers? ; D

They do have tables on the balconies with superb view of the surrounding mountains. You do need to book ahead if you'd like one of those tables.

Located in the upper terrace, these might be the best tables in the restaurant! 
As an alternative place to eat in the area, you could try Mon Cham:
Actually, if you're going up that way, most likely, your destination would be Mon Cham anyway. They also serve good food, but the ambience is a bit different!

Baan Mon Muan
175 Moo 2,
T. Pongyaeng, A. Mae Rim, Chiang Mai
Tel: 083 318 6444, 083 318 6555
GPS Location: +18° 55' 23.63", +98° 49' 16.66"

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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Le Spice - Indian, Thai and International Cuisine

Chiang Mai isn't one of those places renowned for Indian cuisine. There are only a handful of Indian restaurants here, and if you ask locals or expats, Le Spice is possibly the restaurant that people will think of.

The restaurant is located in the Night Bazaar, making it very accessible to tourists, so would be a good choice if you're travelling in Chiang Mai and looking for something different.

I've been to Le Spice several times, and I find the food and service here fairly consistent. The restaurant has a lovely ambience with a warm and welcoming decor, good food, and friendly staff.

The food at Le Spice, seems to me to be on the mild side, which is kind of ironic, considering the name...but that's not a bad thing because I found that subtle flavours of the milder dishes quite enjoyable and easier on the stomach!

Dips / sauces are served at the start of the meal. My favourite here is the mint sauce - very cooling and refreshing and at the same time, slightly spicy. The other sauces were very nice too. We ordered some papadams which were crispy, slightly salty and warm, which went very nicely with the sauces.

Here are some other dishes my little party had:

Tandori Mixed Grill - grilled chicken, mutton, fish and prawns served with onion ring. The meats came sizzing hot not the hot plate (which, incidentally, we expected it to be a little larger!). Anyway, I really enjoyed the fish and prawns which were well spiced, and nice and juicy. The mutton "rolls" were pretty good too. The chicken, I thought, was well seasoned, but a bit dry, but went down well with the mint sauce. 300 baht.

Malai Theenga Curry - "delicately cooked fresh prawns in creamy sauce". I don't know much about Indian food, and so won't go into much details here except that this was my favourite dish for the night. The curry is very mild and delicate. Eat it slowly to enjoy the complexity of flavours. A really lovely dish! 150 baht 

Samosas - fried pastry with potato and peas filling. The filling is lovely with a great curry flavour and was steaming hot when the samosas were broken open. 30 baht


After all the mild dishes, we thought we would like to try something spicy! The waitress advised us to get vindaloo curry, which was definitely fiery. I found the curry to be a little disappointing though, as the flavours did not seem to be as "developed" (I don't know if that's the correct term for it!!), and I could only feel the heat of the curry. May be it would have tasted better the next day!

Overall though, it was an enjoyable and satisfying meal, and a nice change from the usual (but very good) offerings of Thai, Italian, Japanese and Korean food. The setting was lovely too, and the service pretty good.

Don't forget to check out their set meals at the back of the menu - very good selection and great value too!

Le Spice
31 Charoen Prathet Rd Soi 6
Night Bazaar Area (in the soi just after Kalare building)
Tel: 053 234 983
Opens daily

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Friday, 7 November 2014

Pizzeria Giotto @ Meechok Plaza

Pizza Giotto is a relatively new Italian restaurant opened earlier this year by a young Thai chef. She did a fantastic job with the restaurant providing lovely Italian fare, including thin crust wood fired pizzas, lovely pasta, and various other dishes. There's even breakfast too!

Another good thing about it is, it's just a few doors down from my office at Meechok Plaza. This is welcomed addition to the various restaurants and eateries, providing a nice mix of International cuisines from Thai to Chinese to Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese...and now Italian.

The service is very friendly and warm, and the staff very well trained.

Ok...on with the food!

Ceasar Salad with Prawns. This this the first time I've had caesar salad with prawns, and it was lovely! Beautiful, creamy dressing that I can just keep eating non stop. The prawns were well seasoned and full of flavour, and I was quite pleasantly surprised with this as the prawns I've had in Thailand are generally tasteless. 185 baht.

Pesto Pizza - also quite lovely, cooked in one of those impressive igloo looking wood fire pizza ovens. Crispy thin crusted pizza topped with pesto sauce (crushed garlic, basil, parsley and nuts blended with parmesan and olive oil) and topped with mozzarella cheese. I love the thin crust that actually felt quite healthy, and I was able to un-guiltily enjoy the pizza...after all, there's lot of calcium in cheese, right? The flavours, by the way, came together very well.

Just as a general note:  I find the food at Pizzeria Giotto not too salty, and I could enjoy the "real" flavours of the cheese (beautiful!), and the pesto sauce.  250 baht.

The Oven

Home Made Potato Fries. I think potato chips and fries must be the ultimate comfort food. I particularly like thick cut fries and potato fries / wedges. There's something about biting into the crispy "skin" into the warm and soft "centres" that's immensely satisfying, especially on a rainy day or when you're tired and hungry! So...being very hungry and tired that day, I couldn't help myself but order these potato fries served with spicy mayonnaise... And the fries were scrumptious, especially with the paprika sprinkled on top for a little added kick. 95 Baht.

Spaghetti Olio Garlic, Prawns, Mushrooms and Dried Chilli. This was a great dish infused with beautiful garlic aroma, and quite strongly flavoured and pretty spicy. The prawns were very well seasoned. A very nice dish. 250 baht.

The Verdict

The food here is very nice, and the staff very friendly and knowledgable. Great addition to the variety of restaurants at Meechok Plaza. Not cheap, but comparable to other Italian restaurants around town.

Pizzeria Giotto
206/24 Meechok Plaza
T Faham, A Muang, Chiang Mai
Tel: 0835821551
Opens: 10am-9pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

I'm trying out the New Google Maps. Hope you like it!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Baetong. (Baetong Chicken Rice Shop) - ข้าวมันไก่เบตง

My father kept telling me that there's this new Baetong Chicken Rice shop on the way to Mae Jo University, and how the chicken rice is SO good there. Naturally, I had to try it...and he was right. The chicken rice here is great!

...But... What is Baetong Chicken Rice? I've heard of Hainanese Chicken Rice, which is where chicken rice originated, but Baetong?

Baetong is actually a district in Yala, Southern Thailand. It's also the name of a species of chicken that was brought over to Thailand when the Chinese immigrated to Baetong District over 100 years ago.

Baetong species of chicken, I've read, have a soft-chewy texture and crispy skin with less fat than the species that are normally used.

To add to the confusion, "Baetong" here is also the name of the eatery, as well as the name of the dish served, and the name of the species of chicken used!

So, Baetong (as in the name of the shop)'s Baetong chicken rice, is, as mentioned earlier, is great. The rice is perfectly cooked and fluffy. The chicken is plump and juicy. The soup has a soft, slightly sweet, mild flavour - a perfect compliment to the dish. The sauces are wonderful. I love, particularly, the sauce on the left hand side (see photo below). Both sauces have ginger and chilli, but the sauce on the left also has dao jiew (bean paste), which adds another dimension to the complexity of flavours. It's perfect on the chicken and rice.

As with other chicken rice restaurant, we can also choose fried chicken instead of steamed chicken. I'm more of a traditionalist and don't tend to order the fried chicken - chicken rice, but apparently, it's very good as well.

If you can't decide which one to go for, you can always ask for half steamed chicken and half fried chicken. I think I'll do that next time just to see what the fried chicken is like. There are other combinations available too - e.g. steamed chicken with innards; steamed chicken, fried chicken and crispy skin pork on chicken rice..... Boat noodle is also served here.

Price: from around 40 baht.

Baetong Chicken Rice Shop
Location: Mae Jo-Phrao Rd

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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Shanghai Long (Shanghai Dragon) Chinese Restaurant

I remember going to Shanghai Long once before when they first opened at The Harbour about a year ago. The restaurant looked very inviting, and the promise of Shanghai style food in Chiang Mai was rather exciting! Chiang Mai definitely could use another Chinese restaurant. My usual haunt - Jia Tong Heng is great, but it's nice to have a change every now and then!

Interesting enough, Shanghai Long was the first Chinese restaurant I have been to that didn't have chopsticks! (Shock! Horror! Chinese Restaurant without chopsticks!). I even asked the waiter at the time and he said they didn't have any. The food, I remembered, was pretty good though. Not sure if it was Shanghai style, but I remember enjoying it.

Fast forward a year later, I thought I'll give Shanghai Long a try again. This time, The Harbour was really quiet, and the restaurant also not really busy. The chopsticks were there though!.. And the extensive menu looked so great it got our stomachs grumbling.

The first dish - Tokyo Pork Ribs - deep fried pork ribs in a sticky, honey soy sauce. This was really nice. The ribs came sizzling hot, and full of salty sweet flavour. Unfortunately, some of the pieces were still red inside, and we had to send them back to the kitchen. A new serving was promptly made with smaller pieces of ribs (less fat too!). 120 baht.

Seabass Steamed with Soy Sauce - This was nice and the fish quite fresh. I find the flavour of the soy sauce on the mild side. 450 baht

Morning Glory Stir-fried with Shrimp Paste - It was quite good, and the morning glory fresh and stems crispy,  but I thought there was something missing from the dish - not quite sure..may be chillis?  80 baht

Stir-fried Fresh Noodles in Thick Sauce with fish. This looked really good. The "thick sauce" is actually black bean sauce, which gave a nice flavour and fragrance to the dish. Nice noodles, but a little on the oily side. 90 baht.

The Verdict

Shanghai Long is a pretty good Chinese restaurant with a large selection on the menu to choose from. The prices are pretty reasonable, and the ambience is quite nice. Best of all, there's a lot of parking at The Harbour. If you're in the area, it's worth a try.

Shanghai Long
Facebook page
The Harbour Shopping Centre
Huay Kaew Road.
Opens daily: 11am-10pm
Tel: 053 213682-3

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Pun Pun (Lung Mor / behind Chiang Mai University branch)

Chiang Mai is a great place for vegetarian food. There are so many wonderful vegetarian restaurants out there, and I must say Thai vegetarian food is fantastic - generally healthy, fresh, and tasty sans meat version of the whatever Thai dish.

Pun Pun is actually a small organic farm and seed saving centre, as well as a self-sustainable community in the countryside of Chiang Mai. They promote sustainable living, and you can actually take courses there from how to build mud huts to organic farming.

They currently have 2 restaurants in Chiang Mai, and another branch is being built. The original restaurant is at Wat Suan Dok (Suan Dok Temple) on Suthep Rd. It's a simple set up, but very atmospheric eating under the bodhi tree and watching monks walk past. A couple of foodie friends introduced me to the restaurant a while ago, and I thought the food and drinks were lovely.

The other night, I had a chance to visit Pun Pun's 2nd branch "Lung Mor"(behind Chiang Mai University). It seems that the menu is pretty similar to the 1st branch, and has dizzying array of interesting dishes to choose from!

The Salad Dok Mai sounded particularly fascinating - edible deep fried flower salad & greens. It looked really pretty too, and the serving is quite large. There are lovely and crispy deep fried flowers on top of a bed of salad greens. I asked the staff what the flowers are, but he said he doesn't know. He just knows that there are rose My guess is that bougainvillea flowers are used. The salad is served with a refreshing side dressing - which I think might be made from pumpkin. 65 baht.

The Gang Musaman (musaman curry) is quite lovely too, and comes with serving of very nice brown/red rice, perfectly cooked. The taste is quite surprising - quite different from the mussaman curries I've had before. I half expected a sweeter tasting curry, but Pun Pun's version is more savoury and has more spice than other mussamans I have tried. The mushroom, tofu and potato give the curry a nice texture and crunch. 55 baht.

Nam Hed Song Kreung (homemade fermented mushroom sausage with garlic, lime, onion and ginger). Nam is a common local dish, normally made from fermenting pork, rice, garlic, salt, sugar, chilli,..etc for a few days. The fermentation process gives the dish a sour flavour. This is actually one of my favourite Thai dishes, particularly Deep Fried Nam Pork Ribs!

Ok ok..back to the mushroom "sausage" (which is actually hidden under the coriander leaves in the photo below!). I must say the mushroom "sausage" tastes rather like the "real" thing (i.e. the pork variety), and pretty similar texture too.

I'm not too sure if Westerners would appreciate the flavours of this dish, but if you'd like to try something different, I'd say give it a go. I think it's quite nice, and goes very well with the chillis, lime, shallots and cashew nuts. 60 baht.

Now to dessert... astoundingly, Pun Pun offers some rather exciting sounding vegetarian desserts! I think these are brought in from somewhere else, but the offering looks amazing from the photos and the description shown on the menu.

We opted from the Mango Cheesecake. Ingredients include mango, cashews, coconut, vanilla, dates, himalayan salt, love and consciousness. I mean, who can resist? Got to to try it. The "cheesecake" is served cold and really lovely and refreshing, albeit on the cute & small side! It's a bit like a smooth mango mousse on a firm coconutty base. Very, very nice.

The drinks are great too. There's a large range of herbal drinks, juices, smoothies and shakes to choose from. I went for the Iced lemongrass, hydrocortyle and mint drink and it was perfect compliment for the food and the hot, sticky weather.   30 baht.

Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant 

Branch 1 - Pun Pun Wat Suan Dok
At the back of Suan Dok Temple, Suthep Rd
Tel: 084 365 6581
Opens daily from 9am-4pm.

Branch 2 - Pun Pun Lung Mor
Suthep Rd, at the base of the mountain & near the entrance to D-Condo.
Tel: 086 181 6051
Opens from 10am-8pm

Please check out Google Maps for location!

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